Pros: 17.5 HP Kohler engine with full pressure lubrication system, 42" deck leaves a nice cut
Cons: Low back seat and small 1.25 gallon gas tank
I really didn't have to have it but the new storm gray Craftsman LT2000 Lawn Tractor just became too much to resist late last cutting season. The 10% sale put me over the top, all that was needed was a good solid story to pass on to my wife to explain the purchase. I'm not sure I blew enough smoke in front of the other half during my justification speech but either way, I'm a happy boy with a new toy.
I spent plenty of time over the past year kicking the tires of different tractors from a variety of manufacturers. I was quite impressed with the overall feel of the Craftsman models. To start things off, the frame of the unit is constructed with a solid 11-gauge steel. The front axle is made of a solid cast iron and Craftsman has also included grease zerks so the homeowner can keep the front end well lubricated. All said, I was never able to justify the price differences sought by the other high-end manufacturers, and always found myself back at Sears and the Craftsman mowers.
In addition, I love the standard 42 cutting deck that is equipped on this model. After cutting with a 38 deck for years, I found the reduced cutting time a great bonus. The deck is constructed with a 12-gauge steel and appears to be solidly built. I was a little disappointed with the hard composite or plastic cowling on the top side of the deck but it does also appear to have held up well in my limited use thus far.
Im more than happy with the clean cut left by my mower. Craftsman designed this deck to draw air through the top and lift the grass for a more even cut and enhance the performance of the optional bagging unit. Also included on this deck are two gauge wheels on the rear of the deck to reduce the possibility of scalping the lawn.
The Craftsman LT2000 Lawn Tractor came standard with a mulching kit a must option for me. I rarely collect clippings, preferring to have the ability to mulch the clippings into a desirable mulch. The job done by the mulch kit was more than adequate though the few times I used it were in late fall. The real test will come in mid summer when cutting becomes a twice a week job and the grass is at its fullest.
The designers at Craftsman made it rather simple to change from side discharge to mulch to bagging with their EZ3 Deck System. The discharge chute cover or bagger can be easily and conveniently clipped on or off in seconds and there is no need to change blades.
I also purchased the triple bin bagging unit recently which I intend to use to its fullest next fall when the leaves turn a beautiful red, yellow and brown and drop to the ground... Can you tell I can't wait? I did attach the bagging bin onto the mower. Adding the unit is a simple bolt-on installation at the rear of the mower and the vacuum tube simply clips onto the discharge chute of the deck.
Be advised, the particular Craftsman LT2000 Lawn Tractor reviewed here is part of Sears 2004 model lineup. While the LT2000 tag has been around for several years and continues in 2005, there were actually seven various models for 2004 and another four available for 2005. At the time of this writing in the spring of 2005, it is my best guess you could be looking at any of the 11 various models.
The 17.5 HP Kohler Pro is not offered this season but rather you will be able to select from either the 18.5 HP or 23 HP Briggs Intek OHV as well as a 19 HP Kohler Pro. You may also notice several other changes from my 2004 as you look over the LT2000 line including the smaller 20x8 rear tires and a slightly larger 2 gallon gas tank. In my opinion, the two changes made for 2005 are a net loss to consumers. While I would like the larger tank, I much prefer the wider 10" turf saver tires standard on my machine over the smaller 8" tires this season.
Over the past thirty-five years Ive had plenty of experience with riding mowers, Wheel Horse, Bolens, Yardman and Craftsman to name a few. My first consideration was a rider with automatic or hydrostatic drive. Im honestly a bit surprised the gear driven options are still readily available. The price difference is usually only a few hundred dollars but for those new to riding mowers it will be money well spent. Eliminating the gear driven models, for 2005, your choice will come down to three automatic drive options.
Model 27576 with the 18.5 HP Briggs & Stratton Intek OHV
Model 27518 with the 19 HP Kohler Courage Pro
Model 27552 with the 23 HP Briggs & Stratton Intek OHV
The 13.5 HP Briggs and Stratton engine on my old Yardman did offer up over ten years of worry-free service so despite the groans and mumbling I have heard regarding that manufacturers products I seriously considered each model within the line. All three options should offer sufficient power for homeowners with medium sized yards. The 17.5 HP Kohler engine on my unit gives me all the power I require you should be equally satisfied with these big brothers. I specifically chose the Kohler because of its full pressure lubrication system. Although my yard is relatively flat I liked this option that ensures even oil distribution throughout the engine no matter what type of terrain I am mowing, extending engine life. If you cut on hills or uneven terrain, I do suggest taking an extra look at the 27518 model.
Although I have not had the need to, the folks at Craftsman designed this machine with an easy, spin-off oil filter. The dipstick, oil filter and oil drain are all convenient to reach as well. I was a little disappointed in the small 1.25 gallon gas tank but one fill is plenty to complete a cut with some to spare. If you are considering the 2005 LT2000 model, they are all equipped with a slightly larger 2 gallon tank for extra convenience.
The 13 padded seat is quite comfortable but I would still prefer a higher backed seat offered on the deluxe model or garden tractors. I believe this was a standard seat in 2004 but its my understanding some of the models for 2005 may be equipped with a smaller seat. The speed controls are conveniently located on the fender for easy reach. And most importantly, a beer holder er... I mean a cup holder is also a standard feature on all Craftsman LT2000 Lawn Tractors for 2004.
Craftsman offers homeowners a 2 year limited warranty. The warranty is good for parts and labor on all manufacturer's defects but understand service may be required at a service location. The outlet did offer a full 3 year warranty for a cost of $299.00 which included in-home service or pick-up and delivery if needed. The additional warranty even included "fix or replace" coverage up to $1500.
I looked at a wide variety of mowers over the past year and the choices are nearly limitless. I was quite impressed with the value Craftsman has offered on this particular model. The regular price was $1299.00 and the additional 10% discount sale price I received brought the cost down to $1169.00. That price along with the fact my neighbor has enjoyed his Craftsman lawn tractor for a number of worry-free seasons made the decision for me.
I offer a four star rating here at Epinions... eliminating one star based solely on the fact I have not owned my mower long enough to rate it's durability. This does not say this model is not deserving of a full five stars, only that it has not yet earned them all. I do suggest that whichever model you select, begin your search early for the best selection and at least take some time to consider the Craftsman LT2000 Lawn Tractor.
I would like to thank one of the Home & Garden Category Leads, Pogomom, for getting this mower added to Epinions database. If you own a product and don't find it listed on Epinions, check with the respective Category Lead - there's a pretty good chance it can be added.